You learn something new everyday

The graduates and 2 mzungus

Tired but feeling great! That is how I am feeling, sitting down and reflecting over the last few days. Some of you will have been aware that we have just completed a 3 day training program on child protection, facilitating a mixed group of 24 community leaders, pastors and teachers from around Lusaka. All I can say is that it was an amazing experience on many levels. Firstly, it has to be said it was great to see my wife in her element. I’ve always known that she has been excellent at her job back home (training people) and for the last few days I have been able to see her skills in action. She’s very good!! I have learnt so much in such a short space of time and am beginning to get to grips with the whole idea of facilitation as opposed to training. It’s been great to see people create their own learning by getting them to fully participate in the process. What I also loved was getting to know the participants and learn about their lives and how they are interacting with kids here. There is so much good work going on. During our lunch break today, I spoke to one retired lady, who with her husband, has set up and runs a school of 500 children in addition to a home based care project (providing health care for people in their homes)! Both types of work were inspired by the needs of her local compound that has 30,000 people and not one school or clinic! This is only 16 km outside of Lusaka, a rapidly developing city!

The photo above, shows the first ‘graduates’ and it’s a great feeling to know that we have played a part in empowering a group of people who will hopefully go on to train others and help spread awareness of child abuse and protection. There is so much work to be done in this area, it can feel over whelming! Today, we arranged for a doctor who works at the main hospital in the city to come and speak to the group. He manages a service for children that are sexually abused. What I hadn’t realised is that he does this voluntarily as he actually works in a separate paediatric ward. There is no paid position to head up this multi disciplinary team of professionals. In fact, there are only a 1000 doctors in the country – to serve 13.5 million people! Compare this to 250,000 in the UK! This fact was made worse when he explained that he treats about 20 sexually abused children a day ranging from age 0 years upwards! I won’t go into any further details but it is a shocking state of affairs. When the doctor arrived at 10.30am he explained there was a queue of 11 children waiting to see him, so that he could speak to our group. The whole issue of child abuse hit me particularly hard and I struggled to keep composed. There are currently a thousand cases still waiting to go to court from this year alone! Some of those won’t even make it due to the police being bribed and files going missing. On top of this, Zambia does not currently have a forensic lab to gather evidence from cases of sexual abuse so it is hard to prosecute unless there are eye witnesses. Apart from these legal issues, we learnt today that children who are abused are way down on the list of health priorities. As a result, children with other illnesses will be prioritised, literally leaving abused children sitting, waiting for medical attention and at times, missing out on vital medication and treatment. Such medical interventions can prevent the transmission of HIV and pregnancy. Apparently, girl victims are becoming pregnant as young as 7 or 8 if puberty is starting early.
Despite the enormity of the situation, I was genuinely inspired by this doctor today and am hoping that we can work more closely with him. Working for EFZ is a great privilege as we have a really opportunity to lobby government and advocate for change and impact policy.
I am not expecting many blog comments in reply to this entry but I really wanted you all to get a picture of what is happening out here in the world of child protection. On one hand this angers me so much but at the same time, I feel so motivated and inspired by the local Zambian people that we are meeting, dedicated to helping others!

On a positive note, all the participants have developed a number of pledges (ie a number of things they are going to do) when they get back to their organisations. This is really exciting as it just shows the impact that this training could have. Our training successfully worked within the Zambian cultural context. This was something that we were concerned about but now we feel this could be rolled out again to the next group. We are looking forward to doing as many of these training programs as possible before March next year!

Finally, for those that pray, please can you all spare a moment to pray for all the children out here, back home and around the world that are being or have been abused. May you pray for their protection and healing – physically, emotionally and spiritually. Can you also pray for those who witness or hear of such cases, for the courage to step forward and report.

Thanks everyone. It’s been an intense few days and wanted to capture and share my feelings with you guys. I promise the next blog will be a bit lighter.

Love Sam and family

Quick update! It’s the next day and one of the participants of our course has just called us up. She has been at the police station all day with a 14 year old girl, whose attacker has been trying to bribe the mother for a couple of weeks to keep the abuse quiet. She rang to say that she felt empowered and felt great that she was able to support this young woman, access the correct medical and police help with the new knowledge she had picked up.